Lunch Cake

We were lucky enough to have old friends over for Saturday lunch.  The wife is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor and after nine months of procedures is just now taking short trips out and about.  Longtime friends, we used to camp and hike together when our children were little. Now I worried she wouldn’t be able to make the seven steps down from the driveway to our dining table.

Ever the trooper, she did just fine.  We celebrated the grown-up developments in our childrens’ lives and swore at the too-young-to-be-facing-this direction her life has taken.

I chose to keep the food simple and ready to eat the minute they arrived in order to make the most of her limited energy reserves.  Using the eggplant and tomatoes from our weekly CSA box, I made a quiche (remember those?) that could be served at room temperature and some vinaigrette to dress a green salad.  Good bread from a local bakery rounded out the meal.

Talking over the menu with M.J. beforehand I suggested a chocolate cake but he thought that seemed like a “supper” cake not a lunch cake.  I think chocolate cake is pretty much appropriate for any meal—including breakfast—but I continued to look through recipes and settled on a favorite gingerbread from Christmas Gifts from the Kitchen by Northern California-based cookbook author Georgeanne Brennan.

The cake features three types of ginger—powdered, fresh and crystalized–and is made with apple juice, sunflower oil and no eggs so it could be used for a vegan meal as well. It has a wonderful flavor with a modern zing from the fresh and crystalized ginger.  For Saturday I decided to make some homemade applesauce to accompany the cake.  So good together.

Here’s the gingerbread recipe in case you too want to celebrate life in all its complexity with a lunch cake.

Triple-Ginger Gingerbread

Makes 2 Gingerbreads

1 cup apple juice or water, heated

1/2 cup dark molasses

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped crystallized giner

1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup sunflower oil

Confectioners’ (icing) sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two 8 by 2 inch round cake pans.  (I only have 9 inch and they turn out just fine—cook for the same amount of time.) In a bowl, whisk together the apple juice, molasses, vinegar, crystallized ginger, and fresh ginger.  In a large bowl, sift together the flour, brown sugar, ground ginger, baking soda, and salt.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.  Pour in the oil and the molasses mixture and combine with a rubber spatula just until blended.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.  Let cool completely in the pans on wire racks.  Turn out the gingerbreads onto the racks and sift confectioners’ sugar over the top.

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Friday Things: The Near Miss Edition

Last Friday I put together my Friday Things post and stepped away from my desk to meet a friend for lunch.  Twenty minutes later I was hit by a car as I was crossing the street to meet her.

Yes, I was in the crosswalk.  And no, I hadn’t looked both ways before crossing.

I was a few minutes late, having stopped to talk with my handyman who had just shown up to install some trim in the downstairs bathroom.  Rushing across town, I hurriedly pulled into a spot across the street from the restaurant and waved to my friend who was waiting across the way.

The next thing I remember was seeing the hood of a white car.  I recognized that I’d been hit by said car but had no idea where it had come from.  A second later I had flipped 180 degrees and was face down on the ground searching for my glasses which, amazingly, were still on my face.  There were screams and a rush of people heading my way.  I made it to my feet noticing that my left foot was hurting.  The rest of me seemed ok.

Kind merchants found me a chair and offered me a dixie cup of water and treats from a plastic jack o’lantern.  Paramedics assessed me, a policeman questioned me.  The driver stroked my arm as he apologized for hitting me, offering up that he’d swerved as soon as he saw me.

The cop ran his name and discovered that the driver had a suspended license and multiple DUIs. He also suffered from cataracts. At the time he seemed dazed or drunk or high but thankfully he somehow snapped out of it soon enough to swerve when he finally saw me and only caught me with the front right side of his car, not straight on.  The cop thought I would have died if he hadn’t swerved.  I certainly would have been injured more severely.

As it is, I have some general aches and pains and a scraped and swollen left foot.  No broken bones even though it’s likely that the car actually ran over my foot.  It’s miraculous that I limped away so relatively unscathed.

After a week of replaying what happened and taking stock of what’s to come—near misses will make you do that—I  just wanted to say that I’m glad I’m still here.  Thanks for letting me share that.

Some things that caught my attention this week as I was icing, elevating and taking note of some exceptional sunsets.

Clever ceramic figures exploring cultural and language differences.

Good advice for creating something–“I squeeze a ball of yarn (tube of paint/head of lettuce/keys of a keyboard?) and see what it wants to be when it grows up.”

Learning to self-soothe.

Why aren’t there more women guiding toy companies?

A plus size article about plus sizes.

The dishy new fashion-focused memoir from Bergdorf Goodman’s Betty Halbreich. Here’s a little glimpse into her world–

Happy Weekend All–Stay Safe!

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Harvest Decor

Having grown up on a farm, I’m nostalgic for the harvest season that starts in late September.  Perhaps that’s why I loved this image of grapes hanging from the ceiling  of an Umbrian farmhouse.  According to the story in the September issue of The World of Interiors these clusters of moscatello, trebbiano and malvasia grapes hang above an open fire for four months taking on the flavors of the smoke and whatever else is cooked on the fire.  Then they’re pressed to make vin santo. The owner, Isabella dalla Ragione, says “it’s the most beautiful ceiling you could ever see.” I dare say she’s right.

Photo by Tim Beddow

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Friday Things: That Old September Feeling Edition

Over the summer I’ve been re-reading Wallace Stegner’s “Angle of Repose” and thinking how much more I bring to this reading now than I did when I read it in my 20s.  Today I came across this quote near the end of the novel—

“For several weeks now I have had the sense of something about to come to an end—that old September feeling, left over from school days, of summer passing, vacation nearly done, obligations gathering, books and football in the air. . .another fall, another turned page.”

Here in the Oakland hills September means glorious sunsets and warm—sometimes too warm—days.  The deer grow bold and forage for food under our noses.  Every night as the golden hour begins they cross the road from the open space and sniff around my front yard hoping to score some fallen apples.  Yesterday I played peek-a-boo with an antlered buck as I made my way to and from the mailbox then sat on the front deck reading the latest issue of the New Yorker as he and his family milled about under the oaks.  They made good company for turning pages.

Here are some other lovely things I observed this week—

Beautiful DIY blue wrapping paper

A cool but vertigo-inducing off-the-cliff dwelling in Australia.

Helpful humor for household dilemmas.

How techies limit tech time for their kids.

Two very different work spaces for two talented fashion designers—Vera Wang’s monochromatic zen office and Diane Von Furstenburg’s colorful library office .

And speaking of fashion, I’ve mentioned before that my daughter Claire designs sets for the fashion industry.  It’s always fun during NYFW to see what she’s been up to.  Check out the Barbie-pink suburban house surrounded by pink gravel and pink shag carpet she worked on for the Marc Jacobs Spring 2015 fashion show.  Wow!

 AP Photo/John Minchillo

 Happy Weekend All!

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Friday Things: The Standing Desk Edition

Ever since I read writer Susan Orlean’s New Yorker piece about working at a treadmill desk, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of walking or at least standing while I work.

When we bought this house we thought it came with a built-in office desk. However, when we moved in we found that the (not built-in after all) desk was gone.  Since I’d already tossed my old (battered, ready-to-be-retired) desk, I was slightly disappointed—one more thing to buy!—but quickly realized that I could now pursue a walking/standing desk.

After doing some online research I decided to start with a “sit-stand” desk to see how much I’d really stand while working before investing in a treadmill. I then test-drove a few desks at Ergot Depot near the San Francisco Design Center. I ended up purchasing the Humanscale “Float” desk for three reasons:

  • I already have a Humanscale desk chair that I love.
  • I didn’t want to be dependent on the electrical component of other desks (you raise and lower the Float manually.)
  • I liked the slimmer, sleeker profile of the desk.  (Form + Function!)

It took longer than expected for the desk to arrive—the company estimates three weeks, it was closer to six—but now that it’s here I’m really enjoying it. Especially if I’m doing research online, I find I don’t mind standing and I feel much better for not sitting all the time while I work.

Do you work at a standing or walking desk?  I’d be interested in hearing about your experience.


Here are some other new things that made my life better this week.

Now that we’re settled into our new home, I’d like to have a few folks over for dinner  and incorporate some of these dinner party tips.

Joan Rivers‘s funeral request had me laughing even after she was gone.

When it comes to creative projects, are you a “leaver-outer” or a “putter-inner?”

This cross-country photo project looks like it’s worth kickstarting.

Experience the power of a bookbook.

Classes at my pool/gym were so packed this week, you’d think it was January–which made me think about this post on working out.

It’s always a delight to see the young SYTYCD competitors “float” through the summer dance competition. Now that the season’s over, it’s hard to pick a favorite routine but I couldn’t resist the sheer joy conveyed in Zack and Valerie’s stair stepping tap number.

 Happy Weekend All!

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California Color Dreamin’

As summer draws to a close, the landscape here in rain-starved California is dominated by straw-colored hills dotted with silvery-green foliage.  It took me years to appreciate this dusty color palette having grown up in a place that was either bright with summer rain or starkly white under a layer of snow.  But now these mellow “Golden State” colors feel like home.  Perhaps that’s why I was so taken with San Francisco designer Benjamin Dhong’s design for a South Bay couple in the September “Color” issue of House Beautiful.

As he explains in his interview with Mimi Read, Dhong favors a mix of rustic and glamorous elements, like this green velvet ottomon paired with a distressed fireplace mantel.

He also knows his way around neutrals, as seen in the elegant white-on-white bedroom and East-West inspired living room with its sunny accessories.

After a few years awash in watery blues, it’s nice to see the sun shine in.

All photos by Lisa Romerein for House Beautiful.

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Yesterday I woke up in the early a.m. dark because my bed was shaking.  Actually, not just my bed, I realized, but the whole room.  Eyes wide open now, I recognized that it wasn’t just my room but my entire house that was shuddering in the night. “Earthquake!” I elbowed M.J. awake. “Earthquake!”

He stumbled around in an unfamiliar space (we’re sleeping downstairs while the tile work is happening upstairs), shut the door to the adjacent office and fell back into bed murmuring “ just the wind,” before promptly dozing off.  Hmm, I thought, that was some mighty wind.

I checked my phone for reports of an earthquake. I saw there’d been a 6.0 quake about 30 miles away but couldn’t believe that was the quake that had rattled me awake.  I mean, it had gone on longer than average, but 6.0 is a BIG earthquake and this didn’t seem that big.  I’d lived through the Loma Prieta earthquake, after all, and thought I knew what BIG felt like. This felt moderate, thankfully. (Not to those closer to the epicenter, I know–prayers winging their way.) But still, it was big enough to keep me restless in the dark wondering where our earthquake supply stuff landed after the move.

I’d seen the empty water canisters on top of some piles in the garage.  I knew the unplugged emergency battery/radio/flashlight thingy was in the tansu chest next to M.J.’S side of the bed. But the crow bar to get out of a collapsed house? The basic camping supplies to provide shelter?  No idea.

I’ve lived in California for 34 years now.  Long enough to know what supplies are recommended to survive in the case of a major earthquake.  Water, mostly.  Some medical supplies, a bit of food,  basic shelter items and pieces of clothing like a jacket and shoes in case the quake happens in the middle of the night and you need to walk somewhere in more than your nightgown and bare feet. Oh, and a 72-hour survival kit that you can take with you if necessary.

None of those things were in place yesterday.

So today I plugged in the battery/radio/flashlight thingy.  Filled the empty water canisters.  Located the camping supplies and ordered a new two person 72-hour survival kit.  (Inevitably, the food starts to turn or critters get into them or they get misplaced–it was time for a new one.)

A friend at the gym today said she keeps a crowbar outside her house so she could get in if she was outside and it collapsed in an earthquake. Guess we need one of those as well.  Time to reassemble a bin of old, warm clothes and shoes just in case.  Here’s hoping I’ll never need to use a single one of these things. May they all go to waste.

What emergencies do you prepare for in your part of the country/world? Do you keep emergency supplies around your house?  Inside or out? Any suggestions as I work on this latest round of emergency preparedness?

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Friday Things: The Floor Tile Edition

After taking a few months off from home-remodeling projects to travel and entertain house guests, we’re back at it. Today I’m trying to hear myself type over the bang-crash-clang of demolition.  If I didn’t know better I’d think some super heroes were duking it out upstairs.  But no, it’s the super-duper tile guys demo-ing one small bathroom floor after another.

We were just going to fix the powder room floor–remember this?– but then when we found out it would cost as much to ship the tile for three bathrooms as for one we decided to go for consistency and replace them all at once.

As you can see, the master water closet floor is well underway. Nice to know there’s a little fuschia (waterproofing) zing beneath all that tasteful Ann Sacks taupe. Here are some other zingy things I liked this week:

How to appreciate your perfectly fine imperfect home.

Maybe by jotting down some “happy accidents” in this serendipity journal?

What a wonderful mix of serendipitous finds and intentional designs in San Francisco designer Steven Brady’s apartment–especially the dresser and lamps in the closet!

Speaking of closets, I had fun taking a peek into these two very different fashion editor’s closets.

Are your chairs perfectly paired or do you, too, have some lone rangers?

Oh my, there sure has been a lot of ice water flung about lately.  What would happen if Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz decided to take the Ice Bucket Challenge?

Happy Weekend All!

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Deep into Deep Summer

Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.

Sam Keen 


I’m enjoying a few more days of lazy summer fun until the last child heads back to college. Hope you’re spending time with people you love as well.  More soon!

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American Craft Council San Francisco Show 2014

One of the unique features in our living room is a long, narrow display niche. I don’t know what the niche will ultimately hold, but for now it showcases various “blue” objects that came out of the moving boxes.  Things like the Korean pottery M.J. picked up in Seoul when he was a Mormon missionary there thirty-some years ago; one-of-a-kind vessels gathered in other travels;  and small vases from retailers like West Elm and Heath Ceramics.  There are also some yixing teapots from my brother and a funny planter shaped like a woman’s head (with blue eyes!) that M.J. snagged from his grandmother’s estate .

I’m thinking I might find a better, more consistent direction for the niche items at the annual American Craft Council Show this weekend at Fort Mason in San Francisco. If you’re in the Bay Area and interested in fine crafts including jewelery, glass, ceramics, woodworking and textiles, you can read more about the ACC show in my BANG article here. The show runs through Sunday–maybe I’ll see you there!


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Kathryn Pritchett

writes about Things Elemental — where we find shelter, why we connect, what sustains us and how we strut our stuff.

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